Where Should the Children Go to School?

Choice of schools.  In divorce and custody cases the end of summer always brings about the question of whether the children should attend public school, religious school, private school, or be home-schooled.  While parents may “share legal custody” and be expected to make this very important decision together, the reality is that parents who agree upon very little, and are in the midst of divorce and custody proceedings, are often not going to be able to agree on what type of school the children attend.

Recently the Pennsylvania Superior Court considered the issue of “choice of schools” and whether or not the local county court was required to consider the 16 custody “factors” outlined in the Custody Act.  The Superior Court ruled that the county courts did not need to consider the 16 custody factors, but rather needed to review “school choice” questions using the age old “best interests of the child” standard.  Basically the Superior Court left it to the best judgment, under the circumstances, of the local judges to decide what type of school the children should attend when the parents cannot decide.

In future “choice of school” cases in Pennsylvania, parents should be very careful to keep track of conversations with the other parent regarding the preference between public school, religious school, private school or home school.  While the choice of the type of school is not up to the children, parents should be aware of where their children’s friends go to school and whether their children have expressed an opinion where they would like to attend school.  Moreover, often with religious schools there are attendance or membership requirements that effect enrollment, and parents should know whether these requirements exist and if so, what they are.  Finally, parents should understand that often the choice of schools comes down to a money issue, as religious and private schools often come with a price tag.  Parents who want the children to attend religious or private schools should be prepared to pay some of the costs involved with attendance at these types of schools.

Most importantly, the education of the children is one of the most important decisions a parent will ever make.  If there is a disagreement between the parents, and the judge will ultimately decide, it is probably a good idea that the parent goes to court with a lawyer who can help present the parent’s best case and arguments to the judge.

If you have questions about making this important decision, call us at (215) 822-1888.

It Doesn’t Matter Who Earns More Money!

Recently we have had several clients who have been under the belief that because they are the lower wage earning spouse in the marriage that the majority of the marital assets are the possession of the higher wage earning spouse. Frequently these clients have indicated “my spouse earned all the income and so most of our assets belong to him”. This belief is entirely incorrect according to the Divorce Code.

The Divorce Code is “title blind” with respect to who owns marital property. This means that in a divorce situation it does not matter which spouse’s name appears on the title (to titled property) or who purchased the property. Any asset acquired during the marriage is marital property, subject to equitable distribution by the Court. Additionally, regardless of what party was the greater wage earning spouse, earning more money does not bestow upon that spouse property ownership rights greater than that of the lower wage earning spouse.

The fact is that in a divorce situation any asset acquired during the marriage will be divided by the court with each party being awarded his or her fair share of the value of that property. At the time of the division of the assets the Court must consider numerous factors outlined in the Divorce Code. Such factors include which party is the primary custodian of minor children, which party is the lower wage earning spouse, and which party has the greater ability in the future to earn promotions and increases in their income. Typically the party who is the custodian of minor children, or who is the lower wage earning spouse, will be awarded a greater share of the marital assets.

It is not important which party was the breadwinner in the household. In fact, when determining which party in a divorce situation will be awarded a greater share of the marital assets, the Court will typically look to award a greater share to the lower wage earning spouse. Most of the time the higher wage earning spouse will also be the spouse who has the most assets in his or her name. The higher wage earning spouse needs to be aware that the opposing party will probably fare better at the time of equitable distribution. Lower wage earning spouses in divorce situations need to be aware that they should not agree to any division of assets based upon who earns the most income during the marriage.